Meta, the parent company of Facebook, is introducing video relay services (VRS) to its Portal video calling devices, allowing users to invite sign language interpreters into video talks in English or Spanish.
The new functionality is the result of a cooperation with ZP Better Together, a technology company that creates communication solutions for Deaf and hard-of-hearing people.
In an email to The Verge, Meta spokesperson Lisa Auslen noted that customers will need to apply for a ZP account to confirm their eligibility for the service, which is federally funded under the Americans with Disabilities Act. For individuals who qualify, both the service and the Portal devices are free; they must be VRS users in the United States who communicate using ASL.
“ZP and Meta are introducing a powerful new experience for people who use American Sign Language. The combination of ZP’s apps and video relay service with the Portal’s AI-powered Smart Camera that automatically keeps people in frame is game-changing. It delivers simplicity, connectivity, and the freedom to move and communicate using both hands.”Mike Shebanek, Meta Head of Accessibility said in a statement.
Once a user has a ZP account and a Portal, the ASL interpreting service may be used via ZP’s applications, which are accessible in the Portal App Store. According to a corporate press release, the American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters appear on-screen during Portal conversations and are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Source The Verge
Despite the fact that video-calling platforms like Microsoft’s Teams and Zoom include closed captions, subtlety in discussions might be lost without a sign language interpreter giving tone and context. Furthermore, as Meta points out, sign language is the predominant language of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, thus the inclusion adds a new level of accessibility to Portal calls.
This indeed looks a great move from Meta to help disable users get better accessibility. People who are Deaf or hard of hearing can apply to receive a Portal device for free at portal.zpvrs.com.